Iceland 2009: The South

Sunday 21st June: Laugarvatn - Selfoss (71 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... the cars are bigger than the trees.

Here is an Icelandic joke:
Question: What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Answer: Stand up.

Iceland may not have many big trees but it does have many large 4WD vehicles. Some of them are modified (with higher ground clearance and extra-large tyres) for fording glacial rivers and driving on snow. You will see plenty of these 'superjeeps' out and about at the weekends, particularly close to ReykjavÝk.

The Icelandic people are descended from Viking men and Celtic women and their culture is largely Scandinavian. Here and there, Nordic austerity has been replaced with American extravagance - the superjeeps and lavish summer houses are examples of this.

Route 365

Eroded hills on Route 365

Route 365

Route 365


The Flag of Iceland flying at ■ingvellir, the site of the first Icelandic parliament


■ingvellir is on the boundary of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. Europe is on the left, America is on the right.


In geological terms ■ingvellir is an area of sea floor spreading.

Karen's diary:

The gods heard me and it rained. As we heaved and grunted up the muddy road, our rear wheels spinning and sliding, Brian reminded me to be careful what I wished for. It was cold and although the rain had stopped we had a headwind. The road was actually better than we expected; there were corrugations and a few rough patches but the steepest parts were sealed and all of it was rideable. The scenery was very nice, especially on the descent. As the clouds broke up and the sun began to shine, shafts of sunlight swept across the steep mountainsides, causing the moss to glow like golden velvet. The weather improved steadily and by the time we joined Route 36 (bitumen!) it was sunny.

Ůingvellir is Iceland's most important historic site - the place where the first parliament was formed about 1000 years ago. Geologically it is quite interesting, being a rift valley where two major tectonic plates (the American and the Eurasian) are moving apart by about 1.5cm each year. The whole valley floor has long cracks and rifts along it, some of them several kilometres long and widening imperceptibly year after year. Rather like at Geysir, the tourism element is a bit overdone. The cafÚ and bookshop were crowded but the campground looked very quiet. We were glad that we hadn't come here last night.

South of the historic site is Lake Ůingvellir and our road followed its eastern shore. The cycling was pleasant and we were surprised to see just how long the western rift wall actually was. As we left the lake and continued south, the sunshine faded away again and the headwind got stronger and colder. When we rejoined Route 35 to Selfoss the traffic was awful. Every man and his dog was heading home from the long weekend camping trip.

We called it quits at Selfoss and went to find the campground. It was a big place, and it was full of vintage cars! It was the last day of the car rally and they were all leaving; by evening it was quiet once more. The campground was friendly and well-equipped, and had a nice kitchen and dining area. A few more cyclists have arrived and the kitchen became crowded. Campgrounds tend to be quiet on rainy nights - nobody wants to socialise outdoors so there isn't much noise. Just rain and a bit of snoring.